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Old 04-24-2017, 09:54 AM
leftfield6 leftfield6 is offline
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Officiating a wedding in Virginia

A friend of mine who is getting married in Sept of this year in Henry County Virginia has asked me to officiate her wedding. I've officiated a wedding here in GA (where I am a resident) before, using some credentials from an online source. NOT a brick-and-mortar church, which will be important in a moment.

So, I called this morning and spoke to a very nice lady in the County Clerk's office. She said I would need credentials from a "real" church, and here is where that brick/mortar thing comes in. That's how they define it. Dang.

Next option is to be a "Civil Celebrant", which means I can conduct the service as a non-minister, and all is good. BUT, their requirement says I have to be a resident of the County. Which I am not. Double Dang.

To be clear, if I had credentials, even out of state credentials, from a "real" church, they would be fine with it.

So, two questions:
  1. How do they get away with defining a religion based on a physical church? Seems like this violates the whole church/state thing.
  2. Any ideas for how to proceed? Not wanting to violate any laws here.

Can I conduct the bulk of the spoken part of the ceremony, and have an ordained minister on hand to say whatever part makes it binding? Or is it the signing of the marriage certificate that makes it binding?
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Old 04-24-2017, 10:00 AM
friedo friedo is offline
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If they're up for it, have them get married by a judge at the courthouse before the wedding so it's nice and legal, then conduct the ceremony however you want.
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Old 04-24-2017, 10:49 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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You don't have to apply for registration in the same county where the license is issued. There are a number of Virginia counties which are "online minister friendly," which will approve your registration regardless of the other county's position. See here. Regardless, friedo's suggestion is a good one - have them "officially celebrate" the marriage at the clerk's office and then you and they can do whatever you like at the actual ceremony.

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 04-24-2017 at 10:50 AM.
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Old 04-24-2017, 11:14 AM
racer72 racer72 is offline
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Many states including mine have placed limits on what those with online credentials can do. Virginia might be the same. I married 2 couples before my state placed the restrictions. Still have the $35 certificate hanging on a wall.
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Old 04-24-2017, 11:26 AM
OldGuy OldGuy is offline
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This is one I'd really be tempted to fight. How can they define a "real" church? What allows them. However, I'd likely not fight it as I wouldn't want to make trouble for my friends getting married. That's what the day is about -- not a Constitutional fight.
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Old 04-24-2017, 12:04 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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It's akin to evaluating a conscientious-objector claim for exemption from combat (back when there was a military draft). They're not interested in what your religious beliefs are; they' just want your religious beliefs to be genuine.

In Virginia, the governing law is Va. Code sec. 20-23, which says:

Quote:
"When a minister of any religious denomination shall produce before the circuit court . . . proof of his ordination and of his being in regular communion with the religious society of which he is a reputed member, such court. . . may make an order authorizing such minister to celebrate the rites of matrimony in this State. . . ."
Based on that statute, the Virginia Supreme Court, in a case called Cramer v. Commonwealth (1975), upheld the denial of marriage-officiant status to two putative ministers of a mail-order religious organization called the Universal Life Church, whose only dogma was "that each person believe that which is right and that each person shall judge for himself what is right." It was not a blanket rejection of mail-order ordination, rather the court found that ordination alone is not sufficient, and that someone seeking to register as a marriage officiant by way of being a minister must be able to show that he or she performs some actual ministry.

In 2010, an attorney in the Virginia Attorney General's office issued a letter of informal guidance to a county clerk, taking the position that the clerk could permissibly deny officiant status to the Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse (Possibly a successor to the organization at issue in Cramer), for essentially the same reasons articulated in Cramer.

This letter was not an official position of the State or its AG. However, some online ordination organizations have suggested that many county clerks are relying upon this letter to deny officiant status generally to people ordained online. I don't know to what extent that is true, but if it is, the clerks are probably making the determination that online ordination so rarely connotes a genuine minister (within the meaning of Virginia law) that it's safe to make a blanket exclusion.

I am agnostic as to whether you should challenge this position, or whether some alternative might better be pursued. This is not legal advice, just history and context.
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Old 04-24-2017, 12:28 PM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by friedo View Post
If they're up for it, have them get married by a judge at the courthouse before the wedding so it's nice and legal, then conduct the ceremony however you want.
This is my advice, too. As a bonus, they could get legally married whenever they want (not necessarily the day of your ceremony), in case they need spousal health insurance coverage to kick in a month before the wedding ceremony or something.
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Old 04-24-2017, 12:29 PM
DCnDC DCnDC is offline
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Are the couple getting married Virginia residents or are they just having the wedding there?

My "wedding" with the family and friends and all the hoopla was in Virginia, "officiated" by my wife's favorite cousin.

We live in Maryland, whose definition of a wedding officiant is much more liberal than Virginia's (shocking, I know!), so we got our license from our Maryland county, had a friend "ordained" online, he signed and mailed in our certificate, and technically we were married right then.

Again, this doesn't work if they live in Virginia.
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Old 04-24-2017, 01:44 PM
Folacin Folacin is offline
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I'm assuming that the actual "officially getting married" part is where a legally recognized person signs the marriage certificate? In which case if they have also invited someone who can perform that function, then she can sign, and the OP can talk/officiate.
  #10  
Old 04-24-2017, 01:51 PM
leftfield6 leftfield6 is offline
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Thanks for the replies, everyone. Yeah, looks like I may wind up talking to the couple and see how they want to do this. If they are okay with the government part of this taking place at the clerks office, then we can do the ceremonial part with no worries. If not, I'll just have to tell them that I can't do it.

Seems like Virginia is a bit of an outlier compared to other states on this issue. Most other states allow the "Civil Celebrant" in a case like this, but VA mandates that the person applying to conduct the ceremony have residence in the same county that the ceremony would be held, which I do not.

The suggestion of finding another VA county that is more "friendly" to granting licenses seems problematic. I've found a few websites that mention that approach, but none of them seem to have a list of counties to recommend. I've gone through the websites of at least two dozen counties in VA, and have yet to find one that seems to allow any variance to the residency requirement.
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Old 04-24-2017, 04:01 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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I'm now being followed around the internet by ads for online ordination.
  #12  
Old 04-24-2017, 04:38 PM
leftfield6 leftfield6 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
I'm now being followed around the internet by ads for online ordination.


Lol. Sorry about that. Hey, it's good to have a career to fall back on!
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